Cilantro and Coriander
Coriandrum sativum is a tender annual herb whose fresh leaves are known as cilantro and dried seeds are known as coriander. Every part of the plant is edible and especially useful in East Indian, Asian, Mediterranean, and Latin cuisines.
Cilantro plants require a little more tending than most herbs to sustain them through their naturally short growing season.
- Cilantro is neither frost- nor heat-tolerant in Sonoma County and must be grown from about May 1 to mid-November.
- Cilantro depends on moist soil to develop robust plants. Irregular watering causes plants to bolt before they produce ample leaves and mature.
- Small crops thrive when sown in containers and may be easier to tend than in beds.
- Seedlings develop a tap root and do not transplant readily. For best success, sow seed directly into well-draining soil, 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep, when all danger of frost is past.
- Sow seeds in full sun except in hot microclimates where light shade is preferred.
- Either scatter seeds randomly in a bed or plant in rows.
- When seedlings appear, thin to 3-4 in. apart, farther for large plants when robust foliage is produced.
- Water soil regularly; irregular watering and dry soil cause plants to bolt and produce flowers before many leaves form.
- Succession planting every 1-3 weeks yields continuous leafy production. Pinch off flower buds unless you want to produce seeds for drying. Seeds left on a plant easily self-sow.
- When planting in the fall, allow at least 60 days for leafy growth, 100 days for seeds to mature before the first frost date, usually occurring about November 15, but often in late October.
Harvesting and Storing
- Choose bright, evenly-colored green leaves and snip stems to harvest. Plants with any sign of yellowing or wilting may be composted.
- Store cut stems—unwashed—in the refrigerator in an air-tight bag or other container.
- Stems may be placed in the refrigerator in water and covered loosely with a plastic bag. Change water every 2-3 days.
- Snip off leaves and wash as needed; stems last about a week.
- Cilantro and coriander are not interchangeable; they have very different flavors and textures.
- Coriander seed is almost always dried, ground, and toasted to bring out flavor.
- The crushed or minced root of the coriander plant may be used as a replacement for garlic.
- Fresh cilantro is sometimes referred to as “Chinese parsley” when called for in a recipe.
- Fresh cilantro is used in many cold dishes such as salsa; in a hot dish, leaves are added at the end of cooking.